From baseball to manga and even cigarettes, trading pieces of cardboard to build the ultimate collection of photos and stats is a hobby that spans centuries and generations. With a little help from city officials, one local Girl Scout hopes to use trading cards to improve youth perceptions of law enforcement officers.
Abbey Williams, a junior at Athens Bible School, said she wants to make 500 cards for each member of the Athens Police Department to hand out whenever they interact with children in the area. Similar to a baseball card, each would feature a photo of the officer with the officer’s name on the front and a list of facts about the officer on the back, such as their personal motto, hobbies and favorite food or movie.
Named “Team Blue Blaze” as a nod to its sports inspiration, the project will serve as Williams’ Gold Award project. The Gold Award is the highest achievement in Girl Scouting for teenagers who, among other things, address a local challenge related to a national and/or global issue.
“I wish to influence attitudes and perceptions of law enforcement by casting a positive, more heroic light on the officers in my community,” Williams said.
She said there is a heightened negative attitude toward law enforcement, meaning officers are denied services out of protest, spat at or yelled at when doing their jobs. Through the trading cards, she hopes to educate children ages 5–13 on who their local officers are and what their jobs entail.
“With a more positive attitude toward police from an early age, kids will grow up to influence their communities,” Williams said. “Plus, older youth will be less likely to get into trouble with law enforcement if they have a positive experience with law enforcement when they are younger.”
Holly Hollman, communications specialist for the city of Athens, is working with Williams to apply for grant funding for the community engagement program. Williams said she hopes to not only secure funding for trading cards but for stickers with a team logo for police cars, so “kids will recognize their community heroes as being a member of Team Blue Blaze.”
“To encourage participation and to help officers have a better understanding of interacting with kids, I hope to host a kickoff to join the team and a training session for officers to learn some tips on dealing with autistic children,” Williams said. “... Once the team is complete, I will give the cards to officers in time to hand out at Superhero Day.”
Eli’s Block Party Childhood Cancer Foundation’s Superhero Day is an annual community event started in honor of Williams’ late brother, Eli “The Eliminator” Williams. The event honors children still fighting cancer and superheroes of fantasy and real-life in a one-day event at Big Spring Park in Athens.
Eli lost his own battle against pediatric cancer last fall.
“Eli was a big fan of law enforcement, and because of the courage and strength he showed during his journey, law enforcement was a big fan of him,” Williams said.
She said she hopes it will not only improve community policing efforts and give her a chance to give back, but it will help others see law enforcement as heroes like Eli did, “and maybe even inspire someone to be the officer that Eli did not get to be.”
For more information on the project, visit www.scoutingforgold.com.